Since the possibility of Big 12 expansion re-entered the scene a few weeks ago, another wave of hysteria has hit the college sports world this offseason, particularly for those who cover a school on the list of the 18 (and growing?) candidates for an opening.
For UConn, it seemed as though there were only two options. Either it would get the invite, make that paper, keep the athletic department solvent, and live happily ever after. If not, face the worst-case scenario of being stuck in a further weakened version of the American Athletic Conference.
Recent reports are suggesting that a door #3 exists. To most Husky fans it probably sounds better than sticking around the American. It’s not.
The Manchester Journal-Inquirer lifted a few quotes from a paywalled article by Mark Blaudschun on TMG Sports which said that if UConn does not get invited to the Big 12, it will look to join the Big East and pursue football-only membership elsewhere in the FBS...
While it may feel great to reignite old rivalries with Villanova, Georgetown, and, uhh, Marquette, there are many reasons to be skeptical of the viability of making these moves.
Since a “power five” conference is not going to invite UConn as a football-only, the Huskies would have to join the MAC or C-USA to make this work. Why intentionally take a step backwards, in revenue and quality, when it comes to the athletic program that matters most in realignment?
The American is a perfectly fine short-term spot for UConn Football given where it is and needs to go in its development, even if Houston and Cincinnati leave. The goal is to get into the Big 10, ACC, or Big 12.
Football, in the American Athletic Conference, keeps that dream alive.
The basketball-only approach may seem to be working for the new Big East but investments being made by schools like Virginia Tech, Auburn, Alabama, and TCU, hardly traditional hoops powers, portend a shift in basketball’s hierarchy, one driven by the massive windfalls of football revenue.
The smartest way to “focus on basketball” these days is to make $20+ million per year playing football.
That’s why downgrading from the American to the MAC or C-USA would be a weird, ineffective step backwards, and would all but eliminate any hope for an invite to the NCAA’s power cartel. UConn may as well go all the way down to FCS if saving money and playing hoops in the fake big east is the priority.
All is not lost if UConn fails to get an invite from the Big 12. The announcement of a conference TV network makes UConn a more valuable potential asset to the ACC thanks to the live sports programming offered by two highly successful basketball teams. The Big 10 may want some help locking down NYC and the northeast at some point by adding an academically strong state school. Who knows? Maybe the whole conference structure falls apart and the FBS starts fresh with regional divisions.
Dropping or downgrading football is akin to giving up, which doesn’t really jive with every action taken by the athletic department across the past 10-15 years. It would mean punting on significant investments by the school and the state, and ignore that great things take time to build.
Don’t do it, David. You know better than this.